Adaptation of molecular structure to the ligand chemistry and interaction with the cytoskeletal filament are key to understanding the mechanochemistry of molecular motors. Despite the striking structural similarity with kinesin-1, which moves towards plus-end, Ncd motors exhibit minus-end directionality on microtubules (MTs). Here, by employing a structure-based model of protein folding, we show that a simple repositioning of the neck-helix makes the dynamics of Ncd non-processive and minus-end directed as opposed to kinesin-1. Our computational model shows that Ncd in solution can have both symmetric and asymmetric conformations with disparate ADP binding affinity, also revealing that there is a strong correlation between distortion of motor head and decrease in ADP binding affinity in the asymmetric state. The nucleotide (NT) free-ADP (φ-ADP) state bound to MTs favors the symmetric conformation whose coiled-coil stalk points to the plus-end. Upon ATP binding, an enhanced flexibility near the head-neck junction region, which we have identified as the important structural element for directional motility, leads to reorienting the coiled-coil stalk towards the minus-end by stabilizing the asymmetric conformation. The minus-end directionality of the Ncd motor is a remarkable example that demonstrates how motor proteins in the kinesin superfamily diversify their functions by simply rearranging the structural elements peripheral to the catalytic motor head domain. © 2012 Jana et al.
Jana, B., Hyeon, C., & Onuchic, J. N. (2012). The Origin of Minus-end Directionality and Mechanochemistry of Ncd Motors. PLoS Computational Biology, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002783